Over the years, Adele Bambenek has helped make the Fox Valley a more beautiful place through being a member of the Pottawatomie Garden Club of St. Charles and other volunteer efforts.
“She’s one that shares her talents with a smile and with a ready yes,” said Joyce Swearword, who nominated Bambenek for the Everyday Hero honor.
“She’s always willing to do more than her share.”
Swartwood met Bambenek almost 30 years ago through the St. Charles Newcomers Club. They were both residents new to St. Charles.
“Adele was active from the first time I ever met her, really,” Swartwood said. “She was always the one making flower decorations. She is an exquisite flower arranger.”
Bambenek, who now lives in Geneva, had moved to St. Charles from Streator. For Bambenek, volunteering was a way to make new friends.
“I moved from a place where everybody knew you and came to a place where I knew no one,” Bambenek said.
“Volunteering was my lifeline when I moved here.”
As a member of the Pottawatomie Garden Club of St. Charles, Bambenek made her mark all over St. Charles, including putting flowers on the bridges in the city and planting trees in memory of club members who had passed away. She is an honorary member of the club.
“It’s a learning experience for people,” Bambenek said. “I am a floral designer. I wanted to beautify St. Charles. I’ve always loved flowers and people.”
She used that love for flowers and people in volunteering her time at the gift stores at Delnor Hospital in St. Charles and Community Hospital in Geneva. The two hospitals merged in 1985 to create the Delnor Community Health System.
She also worked in the gift store at Delnor Community Hospital in Geneva when it opened in August 1991, as well as at the gift store at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield. Delnor and Central DuPage hospitals are part of the same hospital system.
“At Central DuPage Hospital, I made silk arrangements for the gift shop,” Bambenek said. “There were pieces that could be taken up to the patients’ rooms.”
That gift for being able to arrange flowers extended to the community at large, including doing the floral arrangements at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in St. Charles and the United Methodist Church of Geneva.
Bambenek said she has received more from volunteering than she has given.
“The rewards were special to me,” Bambenek said. “It opened up many friendships. You can’t put a price on friendship.”
For those looking for volunteering opportunities, Bambenek said they should consider a hospital.
“If the first position isn’t a fit, try another one,” she said. “There are a lot of opportunities at a hospital to volunteer.”
To Swartwood, Bambenek is an inspiration.
“It’s not [as] if we’re best friends or anything,” Swartwood said. “I haven’t seen her for a long time. She just is an ever-present inspiration to me.”
The Bambenek lowdown
Who she is: Adele Bambenek, volunteer
Town of residence: Geneva
Family: Widowed; three grown children
Hobbies: She does ballroom dancing three times a week.
Fun fact: “I had a fun experience as a volunteer at the former Community Hospital in Geneva. I had come back to the hospital to clean up some flower arrangements, but I accidentally set off the burglar alarm. Three police officers arrived with guns drawn.”